Charlie Bird watched his first football game about five years ago from his home in London. In that moment, a fan was born. A New York Jets fan. This week he was in New York City celebrating the Super Bowl in the United States for the first time. Bird spent Sunday evening with his girlfriend and friends at Parkside Lounge in the East Village. He rooted for the victorious Denver Broncos, while his girlfriend took the side of the unfortunate Carolina Panthers.
“They’re world champions at the end,” he said of the winner, “but only America plays.” Bird and his girlfriend, Elle Shaps, who lives in New York, were surprised that the Superbowl wasn’t more visible in the city—billboards and advertisements hoisted in the city promoting it. Shaps said they were expecting the “all American experience,” with the Super Bowl taking over New York streets and conversations. But the lack of visible enthusiasm didn’t damper their excitement for the game.
Bird said that American football has increased its popularity and fan base in London, noting that he had received a number of party invitations to watch the big game from his friends abroad. Since Bird himself fell in love with football, he hasn’t missed a Super Bowl game. Due to the time difference in London, this year’s Super Bowl game wouldn’t be televised there until 11 pm, but Bird says the time difference doesn’t stop people from watching and bars staying open so that football fans can enjoy the game. Even on a Sunday night. “Many people in London are taking off from work tomorrow for the game,” Bird said. “The hype in London is massive.”
The increase in American football’s popularity in Great Britain has caught the eye of Roger Goodell, the Commissioner of the National Football League. On Friday, Goodell said that the growth in the NFL’s popularity abroad could ultimately result in a United Kingdom-based franchise. While starting a franchise in London is still a few years away, the NFL is committed to bringing more games for UK fans to attend. Right now, there are three NFL games a year in the UK.
Despite the chance of the NFL officially coming to the UK, Bird says he is not too excited about it. “If that happens, it will fall on it’s ass just because everyone in the UK has their own team already,” Bird said. “I would never stop being a Jets fan.”